Barangay Ginebra San Miguel faces a major challenge when it battles a rejuvenated NorthPort squad that will see the return of prized playmaker Robert Bolick in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Game time is set at 5:45 p.m. with the Kings looking to add the Batang Pier to their growing list of victims in the season-ending conference.
Meanwhile, Magnolia and Phoenix clash at 3 p.m. for a victory that will improve their standings entering the midway mark of the tournament.
After clinching the Commissioner’s Cup title in a grueling seven-game affair with visiting team Bay Area, the Kings had a flying start and booked a 116-108 victory over Rain or Shine and 114-111 triumph over NLEX to occupy a spot on top of the team standings together with sister team San Miguel Beer.
But the injuries suffered by LA Tenorio, Christian Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar in their game against the Road Warriors truly tested the character of Ginebra, creating massive opportunity for the likes of Jeremiah Gray, Nard Pinto and Raymond Aguilar.
Pinto was the hero in their win over the Elasto Painters while Gray and Aguilar had their turns in their latest triumph over the Road Warriors.
“Next man up mentality has been a big thing around the world of basketball,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone said following their game against NLEX.
“It provides an opportunity to step in and get extra minutes and extra touches. It also asks guys who are playing regular minutes that they have to step up.”
But winning their straight win will not be easy.
Ginebra will be stacked against a NorthPort squad that will welcome the return of Bolick, who is set to make his conference debut after inking a contract extension last Wednesday.
Cone said they will be ready with or without Bolick.
“We always prepare against the best players of the opposing team,” Cone said.
NorthPort team manager Pido Jarencio confirmed that the 6-foot-2 spitfire from San Beda University had already started training with them, giving them extra boost against a Ginebra side that is powered by reigning Most Valuable Player Scottie Thompson, Stanley Pringle, Jamie Malonzo and import Justin Brownlee.
Without Bolick, and the injury-hit Arwind Santos, the Batang Pier suffered four straight losses and another setback would further push them to the cellar of this short, but competitive, tournament.
“It’s a big help having him here,” Jarencio said, referring to Bolick who led the league in scoring in the previous Commissioner’s Cup.